Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic renew their rivalry at the French Open, with the Spanish and Serbian greats set to fight for a spot in the semi-final on Tuesday.
The quarter-final clash between Nadal and Djokovic was earmarked as the highlight of this year’s major at Roland Garros.
Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday, puts his record of 109 wins and just three losses in Paris, since his title-winning debut in 2005, on the line against the defending champion.
A big factor in their last-eight encounter will be the match timing.
The highly-anticipated match has been scheduled to be played during the controversial night session despite the Spaniard expressing reservations about it.
“I don’t like night sessions on clay. I am very clear with that,” Nadal had said earlier.
“I don’t like to play on clay during the night because humidity is higher, the ball is slower and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it’s cold.
“I think that makes a big difference on the way you play tennis on clay during the night and during the day.”
It has been a challenge for the Spaniard so far.
Nadal was taken to five sets for only the third time in his tournament history by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.
After the win, the Spaniard admitted that not only was this year’s French Open at stake for him, but possibly his playing future.
“I know my situation, and I accept it. I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris unsure if he would be able to take part after suffering a recurrence of a chronic foot injury that has plagued him for large parts of his career.
“I am just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last at Roland Garros. I went through a tough process again with my foot, so I don’t know what can happen in the near future.”
Overall, Djokovic leads Nadal 30-28 since their first meeting at the 2006 French Open.
Nadal has a 19-8 edge on clay and has won seven of the pair’s nine meetings in Paris.
Djokovic, however, came out on top in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021 on his way to a second title.
That defeat took a physical toll on Nadal, who then skipped Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
Djokovic has reached the last-eight with ease.
He has won 22 sets in a row, a run stretching back to his Italian Open triumph in Rome.
“I’m glad that I didn’t spend too much time on the court up to the quarter-finals, knowing that playing Nadal in Roland Garros is always a physical battle. It’s a huge challenge and probably the biggest one that you can have here,” said Djokovic.
The Serbian hinted he was not too unhappy with the late-night match.
“I can only say that Rafa and I would make different applications,” he said. “As top players, we do have requests, but those requests are not always accepted.”